A lot goes into maintaining a vibrant, viable community that’s home to 1.1 million people with a wide range of interests and needs.
For the past two decades, many of Fairfax County’s housing, health and human services needs have been met by nonprofit organizations. Since 1997, the county has issued grants to nonprofits through the Consolidated Community Funding Pool (CCFP), awarding $154 million to 930 programs. That figure doesn’t include $11 million that is slated to be doled out in the current year’s budget.
For dozens of local organizations, securing grant funds is often the difference between helping people get food or shelter and shuttering their doors.
Two years ago, with grant funds drying up and demand at an all-time high, some of the county’s smaller nonprofits began asking questions about a process that seemed to favor their larger counterparts.
To their credit, the Board of Supervisors took those concerns seriously, created a steering committee and tasked the group with reviewing the CCFP process.
When the committee presented its report to the board last week, there were several valuable nuggets. For starters, the county can improve processes of identifying community needs and setting priorities. Even more important, the committee found that more can be done to ensure that more steps can be taken to ensure that there’s a financial and social return on investment for grant expenditures.
The committee shared ideas for streamlining the application process to make it easier for small businesses and creating an incubator program for new nonprofits looking for efficiencies and guidance.
Last week’s report also cleared up a handful of misconceptions, including the one about Fairfax County’s bigger non-profits getting the lion’s share of grant funding. In fact, since 2011, more than 40 percent of county funds went to organizations with budgets under $500,000 and another 15 percent has gone to start-ups.
None of this news is particularly earth-shattering, but it reminds us that every program in Fairfax County’s $3.7 billion operating budget should be thoroughly reviewed on a consistent basis.In just about every case, those reviews should include an independent committee of competent professionals, public feedback and a board that’s willing to implement change.
Smart management and strategic investment will help Fairfax remain a diverse, caring community that provides access to opportunities for each of its citizens.